Founded in Manchester by the pianist and conductor Charles Hallé in 1858, The Hallé is Britain's longest established permanent professional symphony orchestra; its conductors include such distinguished figures as Hans Richter, Sir Hamilton Harty and Sir John Barbirolli.

The Hallé's family of ensembles includes the Hallé Choir - founded alongside the orchestra in 1858 - the Hallé Youth Choir, Children's Choir and Youth Orchestra; its pioneering education programme generates over 60 projects a year.

In 1996, the Hallé moved to its new home, The Bridgewater Hall, where it presents over 70 concerts a year. Making over 40 appearances annually throughout the rest of Britain, the Hallé attracts large and enthusiastic audiences both in Manchester and beyond

Sir Mark Elder became Music Director in 2000. In 2011, the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic were awarded the South Bank Sky Arts Award for their performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony; the Hallé have previously won the South Bank Show Classical Music Award for collaborations with the BBC Philharmonic, the RNCM and the CBSO.

In 2003 the Hallé launched its own CD label: its recordings of Wagner's Götterdämmerung, and Elgar's Violin Concerto with Thomas Zehetmair have both won Gramophone Awards.

Elder, Sir Mark

Sir Mark

Sir Mark Elder is Music Director of the Hallé Orchestra, and one of Britain's most successful conductors. He works regularly with the world's leading symphony orchestras, and enjoys particularly close associations with the London Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  He has been principal guest conductor for the CBSO, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the London Mozart Players. Mark Elder has for many years conducted at the BBC Proms, and has twice let the internationally televised Last Night.  His other television works include films on the lives of Verdi and Donizetti.

As Music Director of the English National Opera, he led the company on successful tours of the USA and Russia, attracting international acclaim.  He appears regularly in all the major opera houses of the world, including the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera New York, and the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich.

In 2003 the Hallé launched it's own recording label, and the first releases, under Mark Elder's direction, have met with great critical acclaim.  He has won an Olivier award for his work at ENO, and was the Royal Philharmonic Society's Conductor of the Year in 2006.

Ex Cathedra

Ex Cathedra

Ex Cathedra is a leading UK choir and Early Music ensemble with a repertoire that reaches from the 12th to the 21st centuries, via almost all points in between. It has become known for its passion for seeking out the best, the unfamiliar and the unexpected in the choral repertoire and for giving dynamic performances underpinned by detailed research.  It comprises a choir, Consort of 10 voices and period instrument orchestra.

Since it was founded by Jeffrey Skidmore in 1969, the group has established a niche for the research and performance of neglected or hitherto unknown Early Music repertoire, and for ground-breaking re-examination of choral classics.  It is also acknowledged as a champion of contemporary choral composers, regularly commissioning new work and giving world premieres.

Ex Cathedra presents its own series of concerts both in its home city of Birmingham, where it is an Associate Artist at Town Hall, and in London.  It is delighted to receive invitations to appear at festivals and concert series across the UK and abroad. Recent UK performances have included Stockhausen's World Parliament for the London 2012 Festival and BBC Proms 2013 (London premiere).  Recent tours have taken Ex Cathedra to Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the USA, where it has performed music from Gabrieli, Scarlatti and Handel to the Latin American Baroque.  Over the last three years, the group has collaborated with His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Concerto Palatino, Fretwork, Birmingham Opera Company, Sinfonia New York, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Royal Ballet, among others.

Much more than a choir, Ex Cathedra aims to share its knowledge, expertise and love of singing with as many people as possible through high quality performances, workshops, education and training initiatives not only in its home city of Birmingham, but also across the UK and internationally.

Ex Cathedra is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council.

Image Credit: 
James Ashby

Skidmore, Jeffrey


Jeffrey Skidmore is one of the country’s foremost choral conductors and is highly regarded by instrumentalists, singers and audiences for the high quality of his performances. He is well-known for exciting programming which is often challenging but always accessible. Jeffrey read music at Magdalen College, Oxford, before returning to his native Birmingham to develop Ex Cathedra into the internationally-acclaimed choral group it has become today.

Directing Ex Cathedra, and its associated Consort and Baroque Orchestra, Jeffrey has appeared in concert series and festivals across the UK and abroad and made more than a dozen highly-acclaimed recordings. He regularly conducts other ensembles, and in the last five years Jeffrey has commissioned more than ten new works and conducted many world premieres by both well-established composers and new, young talent. Composers include Fyfe Hutchins, Gabriel Jackson, John Joubert, Alec Roth, Daryl Runswick, Peter Sculthorpe, Philip Shepherd, Peter Wiegold and Roderick Williams.

Jeffrey is a pioneer in the field of research and performance of neglected choral works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and has won wide acclaim in particular for his recordings of French and Latin American Baroque music with Ex Cathedra. An Honorary Fellow at Birmingham Conservatoire and a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, he has prepared new performing editions of works by Araujo, Charpentier, Lalande, Monteverdi and Rameau.

Image Credit: 
Adrian Burrows

West, Samuel

Samuel Alexander Joseph West, also known as Sam West (born 19 June 1966), is an English actor and director. He is best known for his role in the film Howards End and his work on stage (including the award-winning play Enron). West became the patron of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in February 2008, having been the narrator for a concert of theirs in February 2002. He is also a patron of London children's charity Scene & Heard, Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre projects.

Carewe, Mary


Mary Carewe is one of the most accomplished and versatile concert and recording artists in the UK.

She is as comfortable performing theatre and film music, cabaret songs and contemporary classical music as she is in the studio recording for film, TV and radio.


Image Credit: 
Aiden McCarthy

Rigby, Jean


A regular guest at the Glyndebourne Festival, Jean Rigby has also sung with English National Opera, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera, Flanders Opera, Seattle Opera and San Diego Opera. In concert she sings with the major orchestras and festivals. Her extensive discography ranges from Bach, Vivaldi and Handel to Britten, Janacek and Birtwistle, and includes her acclaimed recording of the title role in the Rape of Lucretia, conducted by Richard Hickox.

Kennedy, Andrew


Andrew Kennedy studied at King's College, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music in London. He was a member of the Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where he performed many solo principal roles.

Andrew has won numerous prizes and awards including the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Rosenblatt Recital Prize. He is a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award winner and won the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artists' Award in 2006. He was also a member of BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists Scheme.

Major operatic roles include Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress (La Scala, La Monnaie and Opéra de Lyon), Vere in Billy Budd and Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw (Houston Grand Opera).

Image Credit: 
Benjamin Ealovega

Ogg, Harry


Harry Ogg is a conductor, repetiteur and pianist based in London. He is founder and Artistic Director of Sinfonia d'Amici and takes up the post of Head of Music Staff and Assistant Conductor at English Touring Opera in January 2014.

Having graduated from Clare College Cambridge in 2012, Harry won the Cambridge University Music Society's Conducting Competition in his first and second years, and went on assist Sir Richard Armstrong, Libor Pesek and Sir Mark Elder. Harry began work as a Cover Conductor for the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera House in August 2013, and made his debut with the Halle the following month for the orchestra's Britten recording project with NMC.


Sir Mark Elder discusses his new Hallé recording on NMC.

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Samuel West narrator
Andrew Kennedy tenor
Jean Rigby mezzo-soprano
Mary Carewe mezzo-soprano
Ex Cathedra / Jeffrey Skidmore conductor
Mervyn Cooke, Lucy walker piano
Matthew Dickinson percussion
Huw Watkins piano
Harry Ogg assistant conductor
Hallé / Sir Mark Elder conductor


What better way to mark the end of Britten's centenary than release some unrecorded works, the majority of which haven't been heard since they were performed in the 1940s. This is Britten with a difference - there are blues numbers, jazz, a 'Tibetan' chant, a Bach chorale and even a ukulele player.

Britten made the hazardous journey from the United States back to England in the spring of 1942. Within a few weeks he had face a Tribunal exempting him from military service as a conscientious objector. In his statement to the Tribunal he had said “I believe sincerely that I can help my fellow human beings best, by continuing the work I am best qualified to do”, and almost immediately he began giving concerts with Peter Pears in towns, rural villages and prisons. He also wrote major scores for radio propaganda programmes, including An American in England, six programmes about wartime conditions in England produced by the BBC for live transmission in the USA by CBS; and Britain to America, three programmes as part of a weekly transmission by NBC.

Music from these two series is accompanied by incidental music to two plays by Auden and Isherwood: The Ascent of F6 and On the Frontier; and Roman Wall Blues, from a lost radio production with Auden, Hadrian's Wall.



'All the participants are excellent, especially actor Samuel West playing a portrait gallery of characters, and NMC's production standards are impeccable, rolling together spoken word, choruses and instruments so that the seams never show. A disc of incidental music should not be as much fun' Gramophone

'Discoveries of underexplored corners of his output [and] intriguing disc.’ The New York Times

'A beautifully produced CD - a real essential for anyone who wants to know more about Benjamin Britten and to get a full picture of this composer' BBC Radio 3 CD Review

'We need to know this music - this tells us so much about the development of this composer, about where his musical voice comes from ...  the performances are superb and the recording frames them beautifully.' BBC Radio 3 CD Review

'The actor Samuel West is also on hand, to deliver a gripping speech from the play. Ex Cathedra, a vocal octet under Jeffrey Skidmore, are entirely convincing, here as throughout.' International Record Review

'This album features music that will surprise even the most ardent Britten devotee.' Gramophone

‘The singers and players capture the music’s quick and clever twists and turns, creating a just-rehearsed-enough spontaneity that seems appropriate for the music. […] This is another very important enlightening addition to NMC’s ongoing exploration of the ‘unknown’ Britten.’ Classic Today

‘Fine soloists, an excellent chorus, and first-rate instrumentalists – all are highly persuasive. Narrator Sam West presents the text vividly and […] the right balance between period BBC posh and Yankee familiarity. […] Recommended especially, but not exclusively, to Britten fans.’ Fanfare

‘These stylized 2013 performances emulate the 1930s in this delightful and unusual recording revealing the young composer’s diversity of styles. The vocal octect Ex Cathedra is heard in the potpourri of styles from chant to brash ensemble numbers, all in state-of-the-art sound.’ The Whole Note

‘[…] much of the music is highly engaging. […] the performances are consistently good and this disc contains 79 minutes of music. It closes with a 1943 setting of Louis MacNeice’s Where Do We Go From Here? Soprano Mary Carewe’s full-throated delivery suggests that Britten could have written a fantastic Broadway musical.’ The Arts Desk

‘Discoveries of underexplored corners of his output [and] intriguing disc.’ The New York Times

‘[…] The music is first rate. […] The performances are all you could ask for […]. I found it fascinating.’

‘[…]these scores for stage and radio were composed at the height of his early, pre-Grimes powers. Plenty of food for thought and pleasure to be had here.’ BBC Music Magazine

‘[…] véritable concentré d’intelligence […]. Britten produit des joyaux dans lesquels la distanciation critique à l’actualité, l’ironie caustique, l’imagination fantaisiste s’accompagnent d’un sens aigu de la dramaturgie et véhiculent un généreux message d’humanisme.’ ClicMag


This recording has been made with the generous support of the Britten-Pears Foundation.


The Ascent of F6 and On the Frontier were recorded in the Djanogly Recital Hall, University of Nottingham, on 7 and 8 July 2013, in conjunction with the University's Britten Centenary Conference, ‘Britten on Stage and Screen’.

Recording Producer / Engineer DAVID LEFEBER
Editing & mixing DAVID LEFEBER

Roman Wall Blues was recorded in Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London on 28 April 2013.

Recording Engineer DAVID LEFEBER
Recording Producer COLIN MATTHEWS

Music from An American In England and 'Where do we go from here?' (from Britain to America) was recorded at Hallé St Peters, Manchester on 14-15 September and Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on 3 October 2013.

Recording Engineer STEVE PORTNOI
Editing & mixing STEVE PORTNOI

Executive Producer for NMC COLIN MATTHEWS


(P) 2013 NMC Recordings Ltd
(C) 2013 NMC Recordings Ltd

Catalogue number:
NMC D190
Release Date:
9 December 2013